Alum Michael Nack Explores the Digital Aspects of Librarianship

Nack enrolled in LIBR-292 Professional Projects during Spring 2010, and earned course credit as he helped Stanford’s Electronic Acquisitions Department develop a new electronic resource management database and order submission system. According to Nack, it ended up being a lesson in “how dynamic project management can be in the real library world.” The department initially intended to develop their own electronic resource management tool in-house, but then discovered an open source tool developed by the University of Notre Dame.

While earning his MLIS degree, Nack focused his studies on developing skills that are vital to librarians of the Digital Era. He gravitated toward classes that emphasized the technological and digital aspects of librarianship, including two LIBR 246 Information Technology Tools and Application classes – one that focused on Web 2.0 and the other that studied PHP/My SQL.

Both courses gave Nack the tools to tackle an internship (LIBR 294) with Stanford’s Digital Libraries Services and Systems Department during Spring 2009. As an intern, Nack created a Drupal-based website, replacing basic HTML web pages.

“My MLIS courses helped me develop ways of expressing the benefits of content management systems and understand the instructional needs of library staff, all of which were immensely important when I was tasked with creating instructional documentation and providing hands-on training during my internship and professional project,” he said.

Nack has worked at Stanford Libraries since 2001, when he started as a stacks supervisor. Today, he is the operations manager for the Engineering Library at Stanford University, where he oversees the library’s circulation, reserves, and facilities operations.

Nack decided to earn his MLIS out of a mixture of personal interest and career goals. “I was interested in supplementing my operational experience with a theoretical understanding of our industry,” he said. “Becoming a librarian was my way to develop the skills and level of authoritative understanding of library resources needed to train others in their use.”

In his current position with Stanford, Nack has worked closely with librarians to analyze, downsize, and relocate 90% of the library’s print collection to off-site storage, while shifting to a predominantly electronic resource collection. He researched and tested various emerging technologies that will be implemented in the new “bookless” library, including media walls, eBook readers, collaborative technologies, and dynamic web tools. His original research studies regarding loan desk interaction and reserves usage have influenced the development of new service models and job descriptions for staff.

Nack didn’t plan on becoming a librarian. After graduating from high school, he intended to follow in the footsteps of several of his family members and work as an airline mechanic. He earned an aviation maintenance certificate, but then decided to continue his education, graduating from the University of California at Berkeley with an undergraduate degree in political science. He then worked at a lobbying firm before joining the Stanford Libraries.

The Jean Wichers Award for Professional Practice is given annually to a graduating student who exhibits outstanding knowledge and ability in professional practice, as demonstrated though a supervised professional experience and/or internship.